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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Political Strategy Notes

Despite the limitation of two choices at a time, “The Best Health Care System in the World: Which One Would You Pick?” by Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt at NYT’s The Upshot provides some insightful analysis by top public health/economic experts.

Paul Krugman offers a succinct, sobering critique of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill: “In reality, Graham-Cassidy is the opposite of moderate. It contains, in exaggerated and almost caricature form, all the elements that made previous Republican proposals so cruel and destructive. It would eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid. There are a few additional twists, but they’re all bad — notably, a funding formula that would penalize states that are actually successful in reducing the number of uninsured…Many progressives have already begun taking Obamacare’s achievements for granted, and are moving on from protest against right-wing schemes to dreams of single-payer. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of environment in which swing senators, no longer in the spotlight, might be bribed or bullied into voting for a truly terrible bill.

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. adds this important observation to the criticism of Graham-Cassidy: “The latest repeal bill is an offering from Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) that would tear apart the existing system and replace it with block grants to the states. Block grants — flows of money for broad purposes with few strings attached — are a patented way to evade hard policy choices. All the tough decisions are kicked down to state capitals, usually with too little money to achieve the ends the block grant is supposed to realize…Oh, yes, and the [the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities] report also noted, with italicized emphasis, that as currently written, the block grant “would disappear altogether after 2026.” What happens then? The bottom line, said Jacob Leibenluft, a senior adviser at the center, is that Graham-Cassidy “punts all the problems to governors while giving them insufficient tools and resources to address them.”]report also noted, with italicized emphasis, that as currently written, the block grant “would disappear altogether after 2026.” What happens then? The bottom line, said Jacob Leibenluft, a senior adviser at the center, is that Graham-Cassidy “punts all the problems to governors while giving them insufficient tools and resources to address them.”

At FiveThirtyEight Harry Enten reports that “Trump’s Popularity Has Dipped Most In Red States,” and notes ” In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it’s down only 13 points. And it’s down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points…If red state voters who dislike Trump but voted for him in 2016 abandon the Republican Party in 2018, it could lead to some unexpected electoral results. It’s another reason that Democrats, if they want to maximize their chances of winning back the House, should compete in a wide variety of districts.”

William Greider makes a strong argument at The Nation that Democrats need primary challengers to reinvigorate the party’s prospects, particularly with respect to Dems who have gotten too cozy with corporate lobbyists. As Greider suggests, “Rebellion may be required within the Democratic Party. It has to turn away from the bankers and the multinationals and restore the multi-hued party of workers and imaginative reformers. Refreshing the field of battle with new faces and original ideas risks losing the next election or two, but intramural contests can energize skeptical voters and redefine fundamental principles…The rebels within the ranks may be a minority, but as the GOP discovered in previous decades, a purposeful minority can agitate and educate and change party direction in fundamental ways. Party elders might have more campaign money, but Democratic challengers can employ a device that worked wonderfully for right-wing, anti-tax Republicans: Ask primary candidates to take the “pledge,” then target those establishment incumbents who refuse to do so. For Democrats, the pledge would be a promise to fight any measure that cuts taxes for corporate dodgers as well as any measure that refuses to support expansion of Social Security or Medicare. Politicians who try to cheat on their pledge should be targeted and taken down. After incumbents see a few supposedly safe colleagues get wiped, they will get the message.”

From the Economic Policy Institute’s post “How today’s unions help working people“:

“While we lost at the top of the ticket, the untold story of the election was the dramatic increase in Latino participation rates that allowed for a record number of Latinos to be elected to office,” said Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, an outreach group backed by Democratic activists, and the national deputy director of voter outreach and mobilization for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “There are bright spots…And 2018 represents another opportunity: Latinos make up more than 20 percent of the eligible voters in 10 out of 62 House races deemed competitive by Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales, according to a Roll Call analysis.” — from Stephanie Akin’s “Record Gains by Latinos Contradict Narrative” at Roll Call.

Despite Trump’s media image as an outlier in the GOP projected by David Brooks, Chris Cillizza and others, Robert Borosage has a reminder at OurFuture.org (cross-posted from The Nation) that Trump’s views, though often more crudely-stated, are nothing new for the Republicans. As Borosage notes, “Trump’s actions and words are particularly noxious, but no one should be misled: Trump’s race-bait politics are an expression of the modern Republican Party, not a deviation from it. The battle for its soul has long since been decided…Trump’s election tally wasn’t an outlier, either. He gained about the same share of the white vote as Romney (58-37 for Trump and 59-39 for Romney) and he was rejected by black and Latino voters by similar margins as well.”

Political Strategy Notes

Credit minority leaders Schumer and Pelosi with playing a deft hand in their immigration policy negotiations with Trump. Not that anything he says has much shelf life. But getting Trump to clarify his postions on DACA, the wall and other immigration issues is a good strategy that splinters his hard right base.

“Trump is on a bipartisan tear of late,” write Rachel Bade and Josh Dawsey at Politico. “Elated by what he viewed as glowing press after his debt ceiling deal with Democratic leaders “Chuck and Nancy” last week, Trump wants to replicate that thrill of victory, which he believes Republicans have failed to deliver since his inauguration….In recent weeks, Trump has complained in private that it’s difficult to have any sort of relationship — or even make small talk — with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He’s told staff that he finds Speaker Paul Ryan, whom he’s dubbed a “boy scout,” dry as well, but the two have some rapport…By contrast, Trump can relate to Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who talk more in non-Washington terms that he understands, according to people familiar with their meetings. Trump wants to keep meeting with them.”

Anne Branigan reports at theroot.com that a new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that “A strong majority of Republicans agreed to some extent that white people are under attack in this country (63 percent), which isn’t altogether surprising given the racially charged—and just outright racist—rhetoric the GOP has employed through the years. But while the rate of Democrats who agreed that whites are under attack was comparatively low, at 21 percent, that still indicates that a fifth of “progressive” respondents subscribe to one of the so-called alt-right’s core beliefs…Most of the survey’s respondents felt that “all races should be treated equally” (89 percent) and that people of different races should be allowed to live wherever they choose (70 percent).”

So, “How Much Can the Youth Vote Actually Help Democrats?” Elliot Morris addresses the qustion at The Upshot and observes, “Young Americans have been moving left and leaving the G.O.P. in recent years, but a successful Democratic coalition built on the backs of liberal youth is far from a sure thing, especially in the short term…The party’s problem is straightforward: getting them to actually go to the polls…Those aged 18 to 29 vote at far lower rates than older groups, decreasing their electoral power. But there are at least some signs that their participation levels will improve. And if an increasingly left-leaning voting bloc does become more politically active, there are huge potential gains for the Democratic Party…The obvious positive news for Democrats is reflected in the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (C.C.E.S.), a survey of 64,000 adults. Fifty-four percent of American adults younger than 30 identified as Democrat or leaning-Democrat in 2016 — that’s six percentage points higher than among the rest of the public. Young people also call themselves “very liberal” or “liberal” more often than Americans older than 30, by five and seven percentage points.”

According to a new Pew Research analysis of polling data, “The study also finds wide demographic and socio-economic differences between consistent voters, drop-off voters and nonvoters. For instance, 80% of those who voted in all three elections were non-Hispanic whites, compared with 62% of drop-off voters and 63% of nonvoters. A 65% majority of consistent voters were 50 and older; just 45% of drop-off voters and 32% of nonvoters were 50 and older…Eight-in-ten voters who participated in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections and the 2014 midterm were white, compared with 62% of presidential election voters who did not vote in the midterm.”

At The New York Times Linda Qiu has an update on ‘medicare for all’ polling, and notes “A Quinnipiac poll in August reported that 51 percent of respondents said that replacing the current health care system with a Medicare-for-all model was a good idea. “Medicare for all” generally polls more favorably than “single payer.” In a June poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 57 percent of respondents supported Medicare for all, while 53 percent favored a single-payer approach…Other polls about single-payer health care found lower levels of support: 44 percent from Morning Consult/Politico, 44 percent from Rasmussen and 33 percent from the Pew Research Center.”..Pollsters at AP/NORC did not ask about a specific model in an August survey, but 60 percent of respondents said it was the federal government’s responsibility to provide health care for everyone.”

David Leonhardts’s New York Times column on “Bernie’s Secret Allies” notes a delicious irony: “The weaker private markets become, the more political momentum government-provided insurance will have. Some Democrats will push for a gradual expansion of Medicaid and Medicare. Others, like Sanders and his growing list of allies, will push for an entirely new system. I don’t expect them to succeed anytime soon, but the debate over health care has moved much further to the left in recent years than I expected to see. And the Republican Party is largely responsible.”

From Paul Waldman’s Plum Line article, “The dumbest criticism of single payer health care“: “There is simply no critique you can make of single payer health care that is more wrong than “It’ll be too expensive.” That is 180 degrees backwards. Single payer is many things, but above all it is cheap. And what we have now is the most expensive system in the world, by a mile…Let’s look at what we’re paying now. In 2016, we spent $3.4 trillion on health care. That spending is projected to rise an average of 5.6 percent per year over the next decade. If you do the math, that means that between 2018 and 2027 we’ll spend $49 trillion on health care in America. That’s the current system…Republicans have seized on the $32 trillion number to scare people into thinking that Democrats want to raise their taxes some insane amount (“When you look at the majority of House Democrats, they support a single-payer, $32 trillion bill backed by Bernie Sanders,” says Sean Spicer). But if we’re going to spend $49 trillion under the current system, and single payer would cost $32 trillion, doesn’t that mean we’d be saving $17 trillion? Congrats on all the money you’d be getting back!”

In his Daily Kos post, “New data finds U.S. Latinas are ‘becoming an economic and social powerhouse,’ Gabe Ortiz writes, “Despite anti-immigrant and anti-Latino slander from the Hater-in-Chief, Latinas are persisting, resisting, and “outpacing the rest of the nation” in economic and social influence, according to new Nielsen data. U.S. Latinas now represent 17 percent of nation’s total woman population, experiencing a nearly 40 percent growth from 2005-2015…77% of US Hispanic female population growth over that ten-year span came not from immigration, but from Hispanic girls born in the U.S…”Latinas are coming into their own, and this newfound confidence will have an undeniable impact on our consumer-driven society,” said Stacie de Armas of Nielsen. “Hispanic women are increasingly the catalysts in an intercultural marketplace. Not only are they the cornerstone of the Latino family, keeping language and traditions alive, but they are also forging a wider path in the mainstream and using technology to serve as brand and culture influencers.”

Update on Health Care Politics, Single-Payer Momentum

At The Daily 202, Paige Winfield Cunningham has an informative update on national — and internationsal — health care politics. As Cunningham writes,

…Republicans have focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with bills that would cover far fewer people and are deeply unpopular. Democrats are fixating on single-payer plans (see Sanders, Bernie) that Republicans will surely block.

After much fanfare, Sanders (I-Vt.) rolled out yesterday afternoon his “Medicare for All” proposal, which has gained support from 16 Democrats (many of them would-be 2020 presidential contenders — see Warren, Elizabeth). It’s certainly true that support for a single-payer system has been edging up in recent years among the public and among members of Congress.

Jeff Stein adds at Vox:

The majority of those backing Sanders’s Medicare-for-all bill tend to hail from blue states or are rumored 2020 presidential candidates. Still, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews has written, the endorsements are illustrative of a stunning shift among Democrats to embrace single-payer legislation — which was once circumscribed to the party’s far-left fringe.

In late August, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the first Senate Democrat to back Sanders’s bill. She was quickly followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who is up for reelection in 2018, became the first senator from a state won by Donald Trump in the general election to back the bill on Tuesday. (Though Wisconsin is a traditionally blue state that frequently elects Democrats.)

But several Senate Democrats have also said that they will not co-sponsor the legislation, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has not formally stated a position on the bill.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), widely seen as one of the most progressive senators in a red state, said that he would not be co-sponsoring the bill — though he is pushing a health care bill of his own aimed at expanding Medicare by lowering the enrollment age down to 55. Brown is expected to face a difficult reelection race in 2018.

“Right now, I’m focused on building bipartisan support for my bill to allow people to buy into the Medicare program at age 55, which will cut costs and expand choices for Ohioans,” Brown told Vox in an email.

Similarly, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate in 2016, appeared to confirm in an interview that he wouldn’t be co-sponsoring the bill, citing his preference to give consumers options in choosing their health insurance. (Sanders’s single-payer bill would likely eliminate private insurance companies and replace them with a single, government-run insurer.) Kaine supports a government-run public option, and said he wants enrollees to be able to pick between the government plan and a private plan.

Meanwhile, some Senate Democrats haven’t made up their minds yet. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said he needed to scrutinize the text of the (still unreleased) Sanders bill, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said much of the same.

MSNBC commentator Steve Kornacki tweets a revealing comparison: 1993: 4 of 56 Dem senators (7%) sponsor single-payer bill. 2017: 17 of 48 Dem-caucusing senators (35%) sponsor single-payer bill. Single-payer reform is gaining traction among Democratic elected officials.

Cunningham outlines the Trump-supported ‘Graham-Cassidy alternative.’ which “would actually rip even more deeply into the ACA than previous GOP-backed measures and is widely viewed as a last-ditch and far-fetched effort to fulfill their repeal-and-replace promise.” Additionally,

The measure would turn the billions of dollars spent on the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, tax credits and subsidies into grants managed by each state, allowing states to define their own rules for health plans that may be sold to residents and outline the help consumers should receive to afford that insurance, my colleagues Amy Goldstein and Dave Weigel report.

Cunningham sketches some of the systemic health care compromises in Europe and Japan:

Great Britain is often cited as the classic example of a single-payer system, where the government not only pays virtually all the bills (albeit funded by a hefty tax) but also runs the hospitals. But other wealthy countries have designed systems that interact heavily with the private market or require patients to kick in their own funds to keep costs lower.

Take France, for example. While on vacation in Paris last week, I had a chance to chat briefly with a senior French Senate staffer about his experience with his country’s health-care system — and was surprised to learn that it’s not quite the government-pays-all system many Americans imagine.

Philippe Bourasse, the Senate’s deputy head of international relations, told me that he carries a supplemental insurance plan to help pay the portion of his medical visits the government won’t cover, and then pays the rest of that share out of pocket. Indeed, around 95 percent of the French buy private coverage — or get government vouchers if their income is low enough — to cover cost-sharing and some uncovered benefits, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

In Japan, all enrollees must pay a 30 percent coinsurance for all medications and services they receive. In the Netherlands, the government contracts with competing private plans — much like how the U.S. Medicare Advantage program works. Successful health-care systems in other countries including Germany, Australia and New Zealand all work in somewhat different ways but still manage to achieve better health outcomes and less per-capita spending than in the United States.

Of course, more government health benefits also require steeper taxes to pay for them. French workers are required to pay 21 percent of their income into the national health system; even so, there’s a near-constant debate over how to put the program in the black. Tax hikes aren’t something Americans swallow willingly. And anyway, the conversation on Capitol Hill has centered on how to cut the government’s health-care spending, not increase it — at least among Republicans who control the power lines.

It might also be good to survey how South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and other nations mix the public and private sectors in their health care systems — and assess how well their systems work.

The political momentum behind single-payer health care reform suggests it will be a central component of many Democratic campaigns in both 2018 and 2020, while Republicans now appear more morally and intellectually-bankrupt on health care reform than ever. Democats may settle on a “public option” compromise or some other public/private sectors mix. But right now, the positive energy is with the single-payer movement — and that helps Democrats and hurts the idea-poor Republicans.

Creamer: Trump’s Bumper-Car Administration Careens Toward Disaster

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Fundamentally, Donald Trump runs the country like a guy drives a bumper car at a carnival.

When you drive a bumper car you just smack into whatever is right in front of you, deal with whatever is immediately in view, and have no idea or concern where you’re going. That’s the way Donald Trump governs.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Chuck Schumer absolutely got the best of him in their White House negotiation over the short-term debt ceiling/continuing resolution.

That was partially because Pelosi and Schumer are simply better negotiators and tacticians than “the great dealmaker” Trump.

Partially it was because Schumer and Pelosi can hold their caucuses together better than Trump’s GOP allies Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. So Trump has apparently decided, not without good reason, that he can’t trust Ryan and McConnell to deliver when the chips are down.

Trump, Ryan and McConnell wanted to take Democratic leverage away by passing a Continuing Resolution for spending and a debt ceiling increase that expires in 18 months – right after the next election. Democrats wanted an extension of only three months, so that they could use the leverage of the debt ceiling and spending bill that expires right before Christmas to press for concessions on Democratic priorities – like including a DREAM Act and ACA market fix as part of an overall “must pass” package.

When Treasury Secretary Mnuchin suggested in the meeting that the “markets” could not stand the uncertainty of having such a short debt ceiling and federal spending extension, Pelosi is reported to have replied that, while Secretary Mnuchin may know a lot about the “markets,” the coin of the realm at the Capitol was votes – and that unless he had 218 votes for his plan, it would be a three-month extension, period.

At that moment, with the deadline closing in, Trump badly wanted to get a spending and debt ceiling extension passed. So he decided – apparently on the spur of the moment and without any consultation with his erstwhile allies ― to abandon his ally’s position and fold his cards. He made an impulsive decision to get through the next few weeks – even if it massively strengthens the hand of the Democrats over the next three months and will undercut Trump’s ability to get Congress to pass his own program.

As a progressive Democrat I am thrilled at his collapse. But it represented just the most recent example of Trump’s “bumper car” mentality – react impulsively with the short term in mind regardless of the long-term consequences of his decisions. Deliberate he is not.

In this situation Trump’s impulsive, shoot-from-the-hip approach may have undermined his own interests. But there are many other circumstances where his erratic, impulsive, defensive, petty, short-term approach to decision-making could endanger humanity.

In its discussion of the leadership skills needed by four-star flag officers, the National Defense University says:

Top-level leaders are responsible for the strategic direction of their organization within the context of the strategic environment-now increasingly global. The term “strategic” implies broad scale and scope. It requires forward vision extending over long time spans – in some cases 50 years or more. So strategic leadership is a process wherein those responsible for large-scale organizations set long-term directions and obtain, through consensus building, the energetic support of key constituencies necessary for the commitment of resources.

That means you have to have the capacity to understand and consider the long- term consequences of your short-term decisions.

If this quality is necessary for four-star flag officers – generals and admirals – in the military, you’d think they would also be necessary for the commander-in-chief. But there is no evidence whatsoever that Trump has any long-term vision.

In fact, one of the people close to him is reported to have confided that he lives life 15 minutes at a time.

Trump’s petty, impulsive threats in the nuclear confrontation with North Korea are a key example.

Were it not for the vision, sound judgment and long term thinking of President John F. Kennedy in 1962, millions of people would have likely died in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. We now know that Soviet commanders in Cuba had been ordered to respond to an attack on the Island with a nuclear strike on the United States without further instructions from Moscow.

Kennedy’s self-confidence and vision gave him the strength to stand up to the advice of his top military advisers who wanted him to launch just such an attack. What would Trump have done? What will he do if he faces a similar decision in the future?

Trump has no long-term vision. His pettiness and defensiveness betray an underlying lack of confidence that is frightening. And as a result – more than anything else – he fears being perceived as “weak.”

Trump is the classic bully – the kid in school whose own self-doubts and fears are manifest in his need to bully and dominate others, and a constant need for attention and affirmation.

And those traits are complicated further by Trump’s complete unfamiliarity with history. He has no appreciation for the consequences of past decisions or the wars that resulted. Trump has no “sense” of history – no appreciation for the phases of our own social evolution – and as a result, no vision for the future.

The presidential historian Michael Beschloss has said that, “Not all readers are leaders, but all real leaders are readers.”

There is no evidence that Trump has the attention span to read a lengthy daily intelligence briefing – much less the biographies and histories that have been devoured by former presidents like Kennedy and Obama.

These traits are weaknesses that can be exploited by adversaries – just as they were by Pelosi and Schumer. But they’re not state secrets – they’re out there for everybody to see. So they can also be exploited by foreign adversaries like Kim Jong Un.

And of course, one of the other key traits of successful leaders is trust. It is the trust others in the group have that the leader will do what is in their best interests – even at the sacrifice of his own. People need to believe that their leader will keep them safe and secure even if it means sacrificing himself in the process. A captain is always the lastperson to leave a sinking ship.

Great leaders project that sense of trust to their own team, to their followers, and to their allies.

Self-sacrifice, profiles-in-courage, trust – these are not words often spoken in the same sentence as the name “Donald Trump.”

Buckle up. Unless he is impeached or resigns, we have over three years left of his presidency. At least it won’t be boring and predictable – except in one respect. You can be certain that Donald Trump will always make decisions that he believes at the moment will benefit one person: Donald Trump.

Measuring the Political Influence of Fox News vs. MSNBC

In his column “Study: Democrats vulnerable to Fox News’s magical powers,” WaPo media commentator Erik Wemple looks at the political influence of the conservative network. Among Wemple’s observations:

“Were a viewer initially at the ideology of the median Democratic voter in 2008 to watch an additional 3 minutes of Fox News per week, her likelihood of voting Republican would increase by 1.03 percentage points,” reads the study by Gregory J. Martin and Ali Yurukoglu of Emory and Stanford universities, respectively. Another finding: Fox News holds more sway over Democrats than MSNBC holds over Republicans.

Numbers go with that assertion. According to the study, published in the American Economic Review, Fox News racked up “persuasion rates” of 58 percent in 2000, 27 percent in 2004 and 28 percent in 2008. What’s a persuasion rate, anyway? It’s a thingy in which the numerator measures Fox News viewers “who are initially Democrats but by the end of an election cycle change to supporting the Republican party. The denominator is the number of [Fox News] viewers who are initially Democrats.” Corresponding figures for MSNBC — Republicans converting to Democrats, that is — are 16 percent, 0 percent and 8 percent. Asked about Fox News’s Democratic audience, Martin told this blog via email, “Given Fox’s content, yes, it is likely that these Democrats are relatively less ideologically committed and more persuadable compared to Democrats who don’t watch Fox.”

At Vox, Dylan Matthews reports that “A stunning new study shows that Fox News is more powerful than we ever imagined: It could even be flipping elections.” Mathews adds,

Fox News is, by far, America’s dominant TV news channel; in the second quarter of 2017, Fox posted 2.35 million total viewers in primetime versus 1.64 million for MSNBC and 1.06 million for CNN. Given that Fox was founded by a longtime Republican Party operative and has almost exclusively hired conservative commentators, talk radio hosts, and the like to host its shows, it would stand to reason that its dominance on basic cable could influence how Americans vote, perhaps even tipping elections.

A new study in the American Economic Review (the discipline’s flagship journal), with an intriguing and persuasive methodology, finds exactly that. Emory University political scientist Gregory Martin and Stanford economist Ali Yurukoglu estimate that watching Fox News directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewers’ attitudes, which translates into a significantly greater willingness to vote for Republican candidates.

They estimate that if Fox News hadn’t existed, the Republican presidential candidate’s share of the two-party vote would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 and 6.34 points lower in 2008.

For context, that would’ve made John Kerry the 2004 popular vote winner, and turned Barack Obama’s 2008 victory into a landslide where he got 60 percent of the two-party vote.

Matthews continues,

The effects of CNN and MSNBC on centrist voters are mostly negligible; MSNBC, in 2000 and 2004, modestly increased odds of voting Republican, before it turned left in time for 2008. But Fox News increases Republican voting odds for centrists, for Democratic viewers, and even, in 2004 and 2008, for Republicans already strongly inclined to vote that way. Watching three minutes more of Fox News per week in 2008 would have made the typical Democratic or centrist voter 1 percentage point likelier to vote Republican that year.

“Fox is substantially better at influencing Democrats than MSNBC is at influencing Republicans,” the authors find. While most Fox viewers are Republican, a sizable minority aren’t, and they’re particularly suggestible to the channel’s influence. In 2000, they estimate that 58 percent of Fox viewers who were initially Democrats changed to supporting the Republican candidate by the end of the election cycle; in 2004, the persuasion rate was 27 percent, and 28 percent in 2008. MSNBC, by contrast, only persuaded 8 percent of initial Republicans to vote Democratic in the 2008 cycle.

These are big effects, with major societal implications. The authors find that the Fox News effect translates into a 0.46 percentage point boost to the GOP vote share in the 2000 presidential race, a 3.59-point boost in 2004, and a 6.34-point boost in 2008; the boost increases as the channel’s viewership grew. This effect alone is large enough, they argue, to explain all the polarization in the US public’s political views from 2000 to 2008.

…”Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure,” economists Stefano DellaVigna (Berkeley) and Ethan Kaplan (Maryland) found in a seminal 2007 paper.

Fox still has a lot of clout, but TV Newser’s A. J. Katz reports:

…For the 4th straight month, MSNBC finished 1st in A18-49 for weekday prime (M-F 8-11pm) in the month of August 2017, according to Nielsen. MSNBC averaged 364,000 viewers A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ 348,000 and CNN’s 358,000); 514,000 viewers A25-54 (vs. CNN’s 448,000); and 2.31 million viewers (vs. CNN’s 1.28 million viewers). In total viewers, MSNBC finished at #2 among all cable networks in weekday prime (ahead of HGTV and TBS, just behind FOX News), posting the network’s best viewer delivery ever and topping CNN in total viewers for the 9th month in a row. In A25-54, MSNBC also beat CNN for 6th month in a row. Additionally, MSNBC outpaced FOX News’ and CNN’s growth year over year in the key demographics: +62% in A18-49 (vs. FOX News’ +13% and CNN’s +39%), +61% in A25-54 (vs. FOX News’ +22% and CNN’s +44%), and +63% in total viewers (vs. FOX News’ +4% and CNN’s +32%).

MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” was the #1 show across all of cable news, beating FOX News and CNN in the key demographics of A25-54 and A18-49 and total viewers. This is the 6th consecutive month in A25-54 and the 4th straight month in total viewers that “Maddow” topped all of cable news. “Maddow” delivered its best total viewer delivery ever for a month, averaging 2.8 million total viewers and 630,000 viewers A25-54.

Writing in the conservative webzine, The Blaze, Chris Enloe explains why “Rachel Maddow is dominating cable news — and it’s not even close.” and notes, “When it came to the coveted 25-54 demographic, Maddow blew her competition out of the water. The liberal darling also led her competition in the younger 18-49 demographic.”

In addition to Maddow’s growing popularity, MSNBC has benefitted from improving viewership figures for both late evening liberal political talker Lawrence O’Donnell and center-right ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough. Further, notes Enloe,

It’s not immediately clear what is leading to MSNBC’s ratings surge. But one has to believe that the shake-up plaguing Trump’s White House and near-constant unfavorable coverage of his administration is playing a part.

It’s likely that Fox News’ own turmoil has played a role in mediocre ratings. This year, the network has seen the departure of its two biggest stars — Megyn Kelly, who left for NBC News, and Bill O’Reilly, who was fired — while accusations of workplace sexual misconduct continue to plague the network.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, it’s clear that Fox News is still a powerful source of political opinion-shaping, but MSNBC’s influence is rising very fast. CNN is going to have to do some more creative news programming to get in the political influence game.

Television remains the the powerhouse in terms of political ad placement, as Steve Lozano reports in his post, “TV Continuses to Thrive in an Increasingly Digital World” at Campaigns & Elections.  It’s unclear, however, if TV News is still the dominant media for shaping political opinion and voter choices, given the rapidly rising influence of social media (even if much of it is ‘preaching to the choir’). What is absolutely certain is that Democratic candidates better have a savvy strategy in place for both.

Lux: How Dems, Progressives Should Define Freedom

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Conservatives spend a lot of time talking about freedom. They seem deathly afraid that government is going to take all their freedoms away.

Progressives don’t talk about freedom nearly enough, even though it is the cornerstone of what we want in society. For too long, we have let conservatives go on and on about it without saying very much on the subject ourselves. That needs to change.

At the heart of the matter is how we define freedom. Conservatives are obsessed that government might actually keep them from mistreating their workers, worsening climate change, or cheating their clients and gaming their taxes. Some of them even glory in their freedom to harass the women in their workplace and say racist things to people of color. In other words, what they seem to treasure most is the freedom to be an a-hole.

Progressives define freedom differently. We want the liberty to pursue our happiness in our own way, live a good life, and contribute to society without being controlled and dominated by the powers that be. We want to live  without the ravages of poverty even when we are working full-time, or at two or three jobs. We want the security of knowing our family’s finances won’t be destroyed if we or one of our kids gets sick. We want the freedom to band together with other workers and bargain for better wages and working conditions without getting fired. We want to know the food we eat is safe, the water we drink is clean, the air we breathe won’t make us or our families sick, and that the planet won’t get so cooked that our grandchildren won’t be able to have a good life. We want the freedom of knowing that whatever our race, sex, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religious beliefs, we can get equal rights and not have people discriminate against or be nasty to us.

That’s the debate: the freedom to pursue happiness and build a good life versus the freedom to be an a-hole. You choose which side you want to be on.

In the first episode of season two of “Mike Lux: The Politics Guy,” I talk about this debate some more. Enjoy…

Teixeira: Progressives Should Focus on the Long Haul

The following article by Ruy Teixeira is cross-posted from the The Optimistic Leftist.

In Praise of the Long Run

On the left, the long run gets a bad rap. As in: we’ve got no time to think about the long run; it’s just a distraction from the fights we need to win right here, right now. Besides, things are terrible right now–Trump and so on. It would be deceptive to focus on the long run. And in the long run, we’re all dead. Etc.

But I think the virtues of a long run perspective are seriously underrated. Here are a few of the ways.

1. The fact of the matter is that very little changes in the short-term, especially the things the left tends to care about. Even for big things like progressive legislation, it takes years for their full effects to be felt. The near future tends to look a lot like the present, which frustrates many on the left.

Considered over the long run, things tend to look different and a lot better. Take Obamacare. There are lots of problems with Obamacare and left supporters of single-payer have noted all of them. But looked at in the long run, the program is an absolutely amazing step forward, getting the left much closer toward the goal of universal coverage it’s been pushing for 100 years. Even if the right succeeds in some temporary pushback, it will be temporary (and the smart ones already know this). Over the long run, progress will continue and the left is highly likely to achieve its goal.

Similarly, it’s easy to get upset with current levels of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment and so on. That’s understandable. Looked over the long term, however, what is striking is how far public sentiment has shifted in the last 50 years–and all in a positive, more tolerant direction. That’s an enormous gain for the values of the left.

2. What we do have in the short-term is winners and losers. Lots and lots of winners and losers. There are the winners of the day, the week, the month.And most of all there the big winners and losers: the winners and losers of the last election and the upcoming winners and losers of the next election. The latter expands to fill all available mental space the closer that next election becomes.

You can lose your head and your perspective keeping track of all these winners and losers and most do. The question of what is really changing in our society disappears from sight.

3. A long run perspective helps you keep your eye on the prize and have clear priorities. The left can’t do everything at once nor should it try. The historical record suggests many things are moving in the right direction but the main thing that is not is the level and quality of economic growth. Over the long run, correcting the latter trend is almost certainly the key to maximum success for the left and its goals. Therefore, rather than rending its garments about short-term wins and losses, the left would be well-advised to concentrate on fixing what is most likely to matter over the long run.

Waldman: What Dems Should Learn from Obamacare Experience

At The Plum Line, Paul Waldfman’s “‘Single payer’ is becoming Democratic Party consensus. Here’s the danger to avoid” identifies some lessons learned about health care politics. “So what lessons can we take from the experience of the ACA that might help Democrats as they move toward another enormous health-care reform?,” asks Waldman. “Here are a few”:

It’s going to take years. There’s a certain amount of wishful thinking in some quarters that goes like this: Medicare-for-all is an idea people find attractive; single-payer systems are simpler than what we have now; so all that’s required to get it done is the proper application of will. But it’s never that easy. It’s going to require lots of detailed policy work and lots of political work to prepare for the moment where Democrats control the presidency and Congress and can make it happen. We all laughed at President Trump when he said “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated,” so liberals need to keep that in mind.

Disruption is frightening. The fact that people don’t want to lose what they have — and can easily be frightened into thinking they might — is a political reality that will always need to be dealt with. It helped defeat the Clinton plan, it helped undercut the ACA, and it helped defeat the Republican repeal effort. You can’t wish it away. If you’re going to change the insurance millions of people now have, you’d better have a darn good plan to overcome their fears.

We need to think about the transition from where we are now to where we want to go. Other countries with universal systems had an easier time putting them in place than we will, because health care was less complicated decades ago when they did it. We now have an exceedingly complex system in place and transforming it won’t be easy, so the plan we decide on has to be one we can get to from where we are now. The implementation of the ACA was hard enough; implementing a single-payer plan would be even harder. The design of your favored plan should include an understanding of what will happen in the first months and years.

Republican demagoguery is a certainty. Republicans will have legitimate critiques of any universal plan, but they will also tell insane lies about it. Remember “death panels”? Expect that times 10 in the case of single payer.

Beware the interest groups. Some on the left look with scorn on Obama’s decision to co-opt those groups, but if you don’t do that, you’d better be ready for a vicious fight. Insurers, drug companies, medical device makers, hospitals, doctors — they all have a lot of money at stake, and whatever plan you come up with, you’re going to have to deal with them.

There will be winners and losers. Democrats can reasonably claim that many more people will be better off if we move to a universal system, and that everyone has something to gain. But that doesn’t mean that there will be no one who winds up with something worse than they have now, and acknowledging that fact can help you prepare for the backlash.

You have to be able to explain it to people. This was one of the major liabilities of the ACA: It was a complex solution to a complex problem, and few ordinary citizens understood what it did. Single-payer systems start off with an advantage in this area; you can say “Everyone gets Medicaid,” and that’s easy to understand. But if that’s not your preferred plan, you need to find a simple way to describe it.

Waldman argues further that the term “single-payer” may be asking for trouble because it is too narrow. The term “suggests that the only system they’d accept is one in which there is one government insurer and no private insurers. That’s one possibility, but there are many other ways to get to universal, secure coverage that have multiple payers.” Further,

I happen to think the best and most achievable system given where we are is one in which there’s a basic government plan that covers everyone — an expanded Medicaid, perhaps — plus private supplemental insurance on top of it, a hybrid system of the kind that works well in countries such as France and Canada. The point is that it would be much better to speak of “universal coverage,” which allows for a number of different designs as long as they achieve the same goal.

Waldman concludes by repeating his first point, that it’s going to take years. It’s going to require phases, incremental reforms and hybrid public/private policies to move America toward universal coverage. Democrats have to accept that it’s all up to them, since the modern Republican Party is uninterested in building a bipartisan consensus, and seems wholly devoted to obstructing any forward progress on health care. That’s why the 2018 midterm elections are a critical priority for better health care in America.

Trumka: Unions Can’t Trust Racists and ‘Wall Streeters’ in White House

At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained why the labor movement won’t be finding much common ground with the white house anytime soon. As Don Gonyea reports at npr.org:

“You had one faction that actually had some of the policies that we would have supported on trade and infrastructure, but [it] turned out to be racist,” the union leader said….

…Trumka continued, describing the other faction inside the administration, “You had people who weren’t racist, but they were Wall Streeters.” He said that faction was gaining power, and moving the administration away from many of the things that Trump promised during the campaign that union members actually liked…”The Wall Street wing of his administration has won out and they’re doubling down on all the policies that got us here,” he said.

…As for Charlottesville and the president’s combative approach, Trumka described it as “a spirited defense of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups of that sort, and we were not going to be associated with that.”

Ultimately, he says all of this left the AFL-CIO with no acceptable partner to try to work within the White House.

Jessica Corbett of commondreams.org quotes Trumka on the effects of Trump’s economic inaction:

“There’s no question that the optimism of a lot of people―our members, of all the sectors, not just the building trades, a lot of the optimism is fading,” Trumka said. “I think a significant amount of the optimism has faded away, because we haven’t seen an infrastructure bill, we haven’t seen the renewal of manufacturing, we haven’t seen the things that we were hopeful about that we could work with him on.”

Gonyea notes that “Labor endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton. According to exit polls, she carried union households, but by just 9 percentage points. Compare that with President Barack Obama’s 18-point margin among labor voters four years earlier. The shift certainly helped Donald Trump secure victory in closely contested battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”

As for how organized labor is preparing for the 2018 midterm elections, Monitor staff writer Francine Keifer reports,

“For a long time, our program stopped focusing on our members and giving them the facts they needed,” Trumka explained, when asked about what’s new in their approach to the coming election. “Now we’re going back and doing it every day.” As workers hear “the simple facts” about Trump’s actions, as he put it, people are beginning to “come back across the bridge.”

Polling indicates that’s starting to happen. A plurality of non-college educated white voters in the Rust Belt battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Michigan disapprove of how the president is doing his job, according to new NBC/Marist polls. In those states plus Pennsylvania, a large plurality of voters say he has not kept his campaign promise to bring back manufacturing jobs, and they want to see Democrats take back Congress in 2018.

He said his organization would focus on the “blue wall” in 2018 – traditionally Democratic states such as Wisconsin and Michigan that went narrowly for Trump – and that it would, in a sense, come home to its members.

It sounds like some of Trump’s white working-class supporters are beginning to bail, and there is no reason to think they will support Republican midterm candidates, who clearly support Wall St. more than workers. But many may stay at home on election day, unless otherwise inspired. The challenge for Democratic candidates in 2018 is to make it clear to disillusioned Trump voters that they will fight for fair trade, a major infrastructure investment and other programs that benefit working families..